Adults who returned to education encourage others to ‘give it a go’.

23 Sep 2015

Liz Corkish from Wicklow and Tony Moloney from Cork are just some of the students who will be talking to the public about the benefits of returning to education, at the National Adult Literacy Agency’s stand at the National Ploughing Championships.

Both Liz and Tony returned to education to improve their reading, writing and maths skills and during the three day event, they hope to meet and encourage others who might be thinking about it, to ‘give it a go’.

Liz knows when people can’t read or write. “I can see the signs, the things people do to avoid a situation, like filling out a form, because I’ve been there. I always had an excuse. If I was handed a form I’d say ‘I don’t have my glasses, I’ll get back to you’. But my heart used to skip a beat,” says Liz.

Like many people with poor literacy skills, Liz left school in the mid-1960s when she was only 12. Classes were very large back then and she feels that she ‘just got left behind’.

When the factory Liz worked for closed and she saw an advertisement on television she rang the NALA number. “1800 20 20 65. I still know the number off by heart. I thought about it for a long time and I remember being in my sitting room, seeing that ad, shaking and thinking ‘will I ring that number?’” says Liz.

“Thankfully I did. I was given the option of an Adult Education Centre in Wicklow but I took the Bray number instead because I didn’t want anyone to recognise me. I started in one-to-one classes with my tutor Joan and she was brilliant,” says Liz.

Since then Liz has never looked back. “For me it’s more than just learning to read and write. When I see people on Primetime I can understand what they’re saying, the words they are using. I can lift up a paper and read it now. I listen to lots of current affairs too. I love Vincent Browne and Marian Finucane,” she says.

Like many people with literacy difficulties, Tony Moloney from Cork also thought he was the only one. “I thought I was alone and that it was a shameful thing. If I ever had to deal with anything official, it hung over me like a huge fear in case I’d be asked to read,” he says.

However, since attending adult education classes everything has changed. “Going back to education has inspired and empowered me,” says Tony. “I can’t praise the tutors in Youghal enough, they’ve given me the confidence to try anything,” says Tony.

Tony and Liz are joining Michael Power (Tipperary), Kevin O’Duffy (Offaly), Noel Phelan (Kilkenny) and Olive Phelan (Dublin) at the National Adult Literacy Agency’s stand at the National Ploughing Championships. They are all former literacy students and they attend the event every year in the hope of encouraging other people who want to improve their reading, writing or maths skills to ‘give adult education a go,’ and giving them information about all the free courses available around the country.

For information on courses call 1800 20 20 65 or Freetext ‘LEARN’ to 50050.


Media queries contact:

Clare McNally, National Adult Literacy Agency 

087 6486292 or 01 4127909.




Background information:

Literacy in Ireland

How many people have literacy and numeracy difficulties in Ireland?

In the recent OECD Adult Skills Survey, the Central Statistics Office interviewed 6,000 people aged 16 – 65 in Ireland and assessed their literacy, numeracy and ability to use technology to solve problems and accomplish tasks.

The results found that almost 18% or 1 in 6 Irish adults are at or below level 1, the lowest level on a five level literacy scale. At this level a person may be unable to read basic text.

For the first time ever, we have levels for numeracy. The survey shows that 25% or 1 in 4 Irish adults are at or below level 1 for numeracy. At this level a person may be unable to do a simple maths calculation, for example adding up prices.

Why do people have literacy difficulties?

There are many reasons why people have literacy and numeracy difficulties.

 - Having to leave school early - Missing school through illness

 - Not finding learning relevant to their needs

 - Being part of a large class and not having specific needs catered for

 - The teaching methods in school didn’t suit the student’s learning style

 - Being in a job that did not require using literacy skills – getting out of practice

Literacy is like a muscle. You need to use it regularly or your skills weaken. Learning is a life long process. If you don’t use reading and writing skills every day you can get out of practise. For example, if a person left school before junior cert and didn’t have to practise their reading and writing skills in their work, they could easily get out of practise and lose confidence in their ability to use those skills.


Who does it affect?

It affects people of all ages and from all backgrounds. Within the one in six figure there are people who are not able to write their own name. However most adults with low literacy skills can read something but find it hard to understand official forms and instructions. Some will have left school confident about their numeracy and reading skills but find that changes in their workplace and everyday life make their skills inadequate. The literacy skills demanded by society are changing all the time.

Does it predominately affect older people?

There can be an intergenerational impact – parents who have literacy difficulties may then not be able to support their own children with their reading and writing. This can lead to their children falling behind and in turn having literacy difficulties or a negative experience of school.  Research shows that children encouraged to read and learn at home quickly develop better literacy skills.

What stops people from returning to learning?

Sometimes people are not able to see the benefits to returning to learning. They had a negative experience of school in the past and associate returning to learning with that experience.

There is also a stigma attached to low literacy and numeracy skills. Often people feel too embarrassed to return to learning and go to great extremes to hide their difficulties from their friends and family. However, this does not have to be the case. Adult education is a very different experience to school. Adult learning is all about addressing the needs of the learner, working at a pace that suits them and according to their needs and interests.

What are the benefits to returning to learning?

Throughout Ireland, lots of people are returning to learning and brushing up on their reading, writing and maths skills. They are people who want to catch up on the skills they missed at school, parents who want to help children with their homework, workers who would like to go for promotion but don’t have the confidence to sit an exam and there are those who would simply like to write a letter or send an email.

Whatever the reason, the benefits are always the same. Not only do people improve their old skills but they also gain the confidence to go on to learn new ones. Although it requires some hard work, it’s a great experience that opens up a whole new world of opportunities in a friendly and relaxed environment. And it’s not like going back to school. Everyone learns at their own pace and there aren’t any exams at the end.

What options are there for people who wish to return to learning?

Who can they contact?

The important thing to remember is that it is never too late to return to learning and the benefits are great.

There are lots of options. You can study online by yourself, work with our Distance Learning Service or learn in your local adult education centre. Or you can do a combination of these to suit your lifestyle. Everything is free. You decide what you want to learn, where you want to learn and when you want to learn.

If you need to find out more just call the National Adult Literacy Agency support line 1800 20 20 65, free text LEARN to 50050.

  Adult literacy provision in Ireland

There are currently 50,000 students in ETB (formerly VEC) Adult Literacy Services